Stories

The Muster Murder of 1787

During the Boston Muster of 1787, Daniel Foster of Rowley participated in the customary celebration of shooting musket balls into the air, and accidentally shot Amos Chapman of Ipswich in the leg. Chapman died six days later. He and his family are buried in the old Leslie Road Burial Ground in unmarked graves.

The following year, a jury convicted Foster of willful murder, and ordered him to be executed, but Governor John Hancock opposed capital punishment and pardoned Foster. Two years after the incident the Ipswich court released Daniel Foster without punishment.

Arrest of Daniel Foster

“To the Sheriff of our County of Essex: We command that you immediately, without Delay, you take Daniel Foster of Rowley, so that you have him before our Supreme Court, next to be holden at Salem, on the first Tuesday of November next, to answer us upon an Indictment against him for feloniously and wilfully making an Assault upon one Amos Chapman, with a certain Musket charged with Gunpowder and feloniously and wilfully shooting and discharging the same against and upon the said Amos Chapman in his Right leg, giving the said Chapman one mortal wound, at Boston, the fourteenth Day of August, 1787.”

 Decision of the Jurors at the Supreme Judicial Court meeting in Salem

“Daniel Foster of Rowley, yeoman, on the twenty second day of October, [1787] at Ipswich, in and upon one Amos Chapman, feloniously and Wilfully an assault did make and that the said Daniel Foster a certain Musket of the value of five Shillings then and there charged with Gunpowder, had and held to against and upon the said Amos Chapman, then and there feloniously and wilfully did shoot and discharge, in and upon the Right Legg, did strike penetrate and wound giving to the said Amos Chapman, on the right legg, one mortal wound of the depth of three Inches and of the Breadth of one Inch. Amos Chapman from the twenty second day of October, until the twenty eighth day of the same October, at Ipswich, did languish and languishing did live on which said twenty eighth day of October, Amos Chapman died. And so the decision of the Jurors, that Daniel Foster the said Amos Chapman in manner and form aforesaid feloniously and willfully did kill Amos Chapman. Found Guilty.”

Pardon, “Commonwealth vs. Daniel Foster,” Jurors at the Supreme Judicial Court meeting in Ipswich

“And now the said Daniel comes & saith that the Justices here ought not upon the premises & conviction aforesd to proceed to Judgement & Execution against him because he saith that since his being convicted as aforesd vis upon the ninth day of May last, he obtained & now that the sd. Commonwealth’s gratious pardon to him of the offense aforesd. granted him by his Excellency John Hancock Esq, with the advice of Consent of the Council of said Commonwealth”

“The Supreme Judicial Court suspends the Sentence of the said Daniel Foster until the next Supreme Judicial Court, to be holden at Ipswich on the third Tuesday of June next, and whereas the said Daniel Foster hath humbly supplicated & in Grace and favor for a pardon of the Crime for which he stand convicted, in pursuance of the Power & authority, do hereby remit to the said Daniel Foster a full free & ample pardon of all the pains & penalties he may be liable to suffer in Consequence of the Conviction aforesaid.”

Sources

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